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February 9, 2020

Sermon Romans 8:37 . .“Paul said:  ‘More than conquerors’”

“Paul said:  ‘More than conquerors’”

Romans 8:37

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Back in June of 1981, a New York businessman named Eugene Lang was invited to speak at the commencement of sixty-one sixth graders at Public School 121 in East Harlem.  It was no surprise.  He had attended that very school fifty-three years before.

And after he graduated, he did pretty well for himself, for he went on to attend Swarthmore College where he majored in economics.  Then he earned his Master of Business and Science from Columbia University while also taking classes at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.  And after he took a job at an aircraft parts factory in Queens, he soon became manager, then part-owner, then part of Stanley’s Black and Decker.  Over time, he came to be worth millions.

And as he looked out across the crowd of mostly black and Hispanic students, he planned to tell them, their families, and their teachers that he had also attended Public School 121 more than a half-century before, that he had worked hard, made a lot of money, and that if they worked hard, maybe they could be successful too.  

But as he began to speak, he began to realize that everything he planned to say really didn’t matter, for East Harlem’s children were poor, and their success rate was among the worst in the nation.  So at the very last minute, he changed his speech.

Instead, he said, “This is your first graduation--the perfect time to dream.  Dream of what you want to be, the kind of life you wish to build.  And believe in that dream.  Be prepared to work for it.  And always remember, each dream is important because it is your dream.  It is your future.  And it is worth working for.”

Then he did one more thing.  He promised to give a scholarship to every student who was admitted to a four-year college.  And after a moment of silence, amazement rolled across the room.  For in that moment, they knew that, no matter what, Eugene Lang was for them.

What a difference it makes when we know someone is for us.  So it is in the words of Romans chapter 8.

Please turn in your Bible to page 1201 as I read the words of our text.  Romans chapter 8, beginning at verse 31:  “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It’s been said that, out of all the books in the Bible, the book of Romans is the greatest.  And of all the chapters in the book of Romans, chapter eight is the greatest.

And it’s easy to understand why, for it’s here that we find the words, in verse 1:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Verse 18:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  And verse 28:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

As one author wrote, “Though we started out in the lowlands and moved up through the forest, eventually climbing past the tree line, to the rocky barrens, in the snow fields, and up through the valleys and crevasses, now we’ve come to the final peak.”

Commentator Matthew Henry wrote that, in the words of chapter 8, it’s as if Paul has been riding a holy chariot on his way up to heaven.

And now, after piling seven questions, one right after the other, (“What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  Who is to condemn?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”), he writes in verse 38:  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Imagine, for a moment, that you went to a jewelry store and decided to buy a beautiful and expensive diamond ring.  You put your money down on the counter, and you’re about to take your ring home.  You say to the jeweler, “Oh, by the way, do you mind if I take the box, too?”

What would you think if the jeweler said, “Oh, no, you can’t have the box.”  If you buy the diamond, you get the box.

Or suppose you enter a contest and you win a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, (nice car!), easily worth a hundred thousand dollars.  Then you go into the dealership and say, “I came to pick up my car,” and they say, “Here it is!”  But when you get in the car, you find there aren’t any keys.  You say, “I want the keys to my car.”  They say, “Oh, no, you can’t have the keys.  You only won the car.”

If you win the car, you win the keys.

In the very same way, think of God has given us.  As Paul wrote in verse 32:  “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

“All things,” he said.  Think of what that means!

No matter how great your problem is, it’s not too great for the power of Christ.  No matter how great your trial is, it’s not too great for the wisdom of Christ.  No matter how deep your trouble is, it’s not too deep for the love of Christ.  And no matter how dark your sin, it’s not too dark for the blood of Christ.

The Maker of the mountains is for you.  The One who laid the ocean floor is for you.  The One who scattered trillions of stars across billions of galaxies is for you.

Not was, not will be, and not might be.  He is, right now, for you.

As one author put it, He knows your favorite food, your favorite way to spend an afternoon, and He wants to overwhelm you with good things.  Your photograph is on His refrigerator and your birthday is on His calendar.  

He is for you.

That’s the good news.  Now let me, for just a moment, walk you through the bad news.  Verse 35:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’”

Just this past April, on Easter Sunday, as Christians gathered for worship all around the world, so did the people of the island nation of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India.

And as they, just like us, read words of resurrection and sang hymns of praise to God, at 8:25 in the morning, a suicide bomber walked into the Shrine of St. Anthony and took the lives of fifty.

Ten minutes later, another suicide bomber walked into St. Sebastian’s Church and took the lives of a hundred.

Twenty minutes later, a third suicide bomber walked into Zion Church, and killed thirty more, most of whom were Sunday School children.

Before the day was over, 259 were dead.  Five hundred more were wounded.

Seven months later, this past November, a pastor by the name Jinwook Kim was serving a small group of Christians in Turkey.  He was married with one child, with another one on the way.  He was forty-one years old.

But that’s when a man suddenly walked up behind him, then stabbed him, once in the back, twice in the heart.

Then another month later, in early December, in a small country in west Africa, a group of gunmen stormed a church as Christians gathered for worship.  Within moments, fourteen were dead, several more were wounded.

The Foreign Ministry department said, “We strongly condemn this terrorist attack.  We extend our condolences to the people of Burkina Faso, and to the relatives of those who lost their lives.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” wrote the apostle Paul.  “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Not just conquerors.  “More than conquerors.”  And we don’t just conquer.  We overwhelmingly conquer.

One more thing.  In July of 1631, a seventy-five year old man named Robert Bruce was having breakfast with his daughter.  He was eating a hard-boiled egg.  And he loved hard-boiled eggs so much that he asked his daughter if she would boil one more.  But as she was getting up to do it, he said to her, “Wait, my Master calls.”

For suddenly, he lost his eyesight and his health began to fail.  And in that moment, he asked his daughter to bring him a Bible and to open it to Romans chapter 8, verse 38:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And he said, “Put my finger on that text.  Put my finger on that text.  I breakfasted with you this morning, but I shall sup with my Savior tonight.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

 

We thank You, Father, for the peace, strength, and encouragement You so freely give.  Help us to always rest, calmly and confidently, in You, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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